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Woman Paralyzed by Burger

Written by PETA | October 5, 2009
marlerblog / CC
E. Coli

Ground beef is not a completely safe product.
—Dr. Jeffrey Bender, food safety expert

In a chilling reminder to all meat-eaters, Saturday’s New York Times recounted the tragic story of Stephanie Smith, whose meatborne illness almost killed her and left her paralyzed.

Two years ago, Smith was a dance instructor who ate a hamburger contaminated by E. coli bacteria, which happens when feces from cattle comes into contact with their flesh during the slaughter process—something that’s hard to avoid when the animals are forced to lie in their own urine and feces in barren feedlots and when they are hacked apart in filthy slaughterhouses.

Stephanie experienced stomach cramping that turned into bloody diarrhea. Then her kidneys shut down. Seizures, which knocked her unconscious, were so frequent that doctors had to force her into a coma. Nine weeks later, she woke up. The virus had ravaged Stephanie’s nervous system to the point that she can no longer walk, and doctors believe she will be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

The name “E. coli” comes from “colon,” where E. coli is found. In other words, anything that comes into contact with feces can be contaminated. While raw vegetables can be cross-contaminated with meat or with waste runoff from factory farms, ground beef is the most common source of E. coli poisoning.

Ground beef is usually a mixture of the flesh of many cattle from several slaughterhouses. Stephanie Smith’s deadly burger contained “trimmings” from one slaughterhouse in Nebraska that kills 2,600 cattle each day. Other bits of the burger came from a slaughterhouse in Texas that kills discarded dairy cows and old bulls.

According to the Times, there isn’t any federal law requiring meat-grinding companies to test for E. coli. Many slaughterhouses put the fear of losing money in recalls before public safety and will only sell to grinders who agree not to do testing.

The company that made Stephanie Smith’s burger continues to sell its cheap bits and pieces of dead cattle to supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, and the school lunch program, so if a dose of E. coli doesn’t sound appealing, go vegan.

Written by Heather Drennan

Commenting is closed.
  • only me says:

    to dear PigPal “a bacterion” but “many bacteria”

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    “Cargill whose $116.6 billion in revenues last year made it the countrys largest private company…” “The U.S.D.A. found that Cargill had not followed its own safety program for controlling E. coli.” When will people realize that most big corporations don’t give a damn about people’s healthand the government is in bed with these huge conglomerates instead of fulfilling their mandate to protect the interests of the public.

  • Kurt K says:

    msalabama So I have a 1 in 6 chance of shooting myself?

  • Randall Farzaglio says:

    Does anyone here acknowledge the fact that vegetables carry dangerous pathogens as well…and can be contaminated with the exact same bacteria even when animals aren’t involved?

  • msalabama says:

    Eating meat is equivilent to playing Russian Roulette. Vegetarians and vegans don’t have to worry about how safe our food is. Unless the ecoli from animals gets onto our spinich. Yikes!

  • Spider says:

    As a young man one of my first jobs was at a local grocery store in my home town. My first position was bag boy then promoted to stock boy then moved to the meat dept. Well I learned all about meat cutting and such and was not very good at it so the meat manager gave me the job of grinding hamburger meat up all day. That was the last time I ever ate hamburgers after seeing what all goes into the grinder from the butchers waste table. I later quit the meat dept. and got moved to the produce dept which was a more desirable job for me. I have now been a complete nonmeat eater for 20 years and can realize why now that we all are understanding the hazards of meat and eating animals.

  • roxanne says:

    Karma sucks. All those animals tortured and killed. I am surprised that there aren’t more people crippled.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I had an uncle who passed away about 3 years ago. He was a hunter who ate the venison from the deer he killed. The official cause of death was complications from Parkinson’s disease. My father died of Parkinson’s also but while his disease progressed slowly over a period of 20 years the Parkinson’s my uncle had finished it’s work in less than 5 years. I personally think my uncle did not have Parkinson’s at all but “Wasting Disease” which is something like Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis Mad Cow which can be contracted from eating venison and can kill it’s victims much more quickly.

  • Brien Comerford says:

    I’m a diehard vegetarian but this tragic meat story is an aberration.

  • Edward says:

    OR you could get Congress to pass a law that forces E. coli testing.

  • shannon says:

    Not to be too nitpicky but E. coli is a bacteria not a virus.

  • PigPal says:

    If everyone who eats meat would read the NY Times piece which provides quotes that show that the USDA exists to benefit corporations rather than to safeguard the citizenry it would be like installing windows in slaughterhouses. It would push some fencers to vegitarianism and push some meatworlders onto the fence. They won’t supply to processors who test inbound? Unconscionable. Purely detached from safety…and morality. Though I oppose unbridled creation of new laws there oughta be one. Test outbound. Test inbound. Require this. No more potential for threats of yanking the supply. Real tests though. Independent. Who pays? Meat eaters. Tax meat.

  • jason mcdonald says:

    this happened to a friend of mine a few years back he died and was missed by all but when the parents sued the company they got off scott free

  • Bluebell says:

    That’s awful. I can’t believe that given the risks involved people are still happy to tuck into their burgers etc. By adopting a vegn diet people can at least minimise the chances of becoming ill and help animals at the same time.

  • Artur says:

    that’s exactly what the movie “Fast food nation” shows hardly there’s something dirtier than “processed meat” AKA burgers sausages etc…